On being an “adult with BPD”

It’s funny, because even as I type that sentence I snicker, it sounds so weird. I can’t speak for anyone else, so it might sound perfectly reasonable to others, but every bit of my BPD experience tells me there is no such thing as an “adult with BPD”. To me it’s an oxymoron, a statement that contradicts itself.

Adults know who they are. Adults know where they stand in life. Adults are capable of mature ways of thinking and feeling. Adults can accept responsibilities. Adults can make commitments and see them through, because they are able to realistically tell what they are capable of doing and usually have enough stability in their life so that outside factors won’t completely throw them either. Adults can handle their feelings. Adults can enter balanced relationships of give and take. Adults have enough emotional and social skills to deal with frustrations. Adults know how to keep themselves and others safe and healthy . . . I know that adults can struggle, too, and that things can be very hard for them, too, but in general they don’t fall apart and don’t just suddenly stop being adults.

People with BPD struggle with all those things that adults are capable of. When I look at myself, I know that I am very much capable of adult rational thought – but that’s about the end of it. I am an adult by years, but not by much else.

If you try to reach me as an adult, if you treat me like I were one, I will try to react like I were one. But it will be all façade. All faking it. I can only pretend to be an adult and it will work for a while, but you will not reach me. Can not reach me. Because there is no adult there. You will struggle just as much to tell who I am, as I am struggling, because all you get is air. A pretend adult.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to get talked down to, either. I hate to feel overlooked and I hate it when someone isn’t taking me seriously. I’m really sensitive to getting called ‘childish’ or ‘immature’. I hate condescending remarks that suggest I’m an utter failure and not worth the time or effort. I feel horrible if I get talked to like I won’t understand a word that consists of more than two syllables. And just the same I hate it when people imply I am not my own person somehow.

I do, however, appreciate it, if people are – in a respectful way – aware that there is no adult at home in my body. I feel lost if I get adult responsibilities shoved my way. I feel lost if things are up to me. I feel lost if people expect me to be able to deal with the same things an adult can. And feeling lost makes me feel scared and helpless and terrible and like I can’t tell who I am at all anymore other than this great big failure, and that’s never a good thing to happen.

This probably sounds extremely weird to people who have grown up in a normal home in which they have learned all the things people need to learn in order to become an adult, who have yearned for the day when they finally get more freedom and more responsibility, for the day on which they can break free from the restrictions that their parents put upon them. It probably sounds weird to them that I yearn for the opposite.

I yearn for someone to provide healthy boundaries, healthy limits and making healthy choices for me. I yearn for someone to narrow my room down to something I am capable of handling. I yearn for someone to take me seriously, to love me and to give me a sense of who I am. I yearn for someone to care enough to limit my responsibilities and give me structure and a space I can overlook, and to help me with being successful within those limits. It makes me feel protected and loved, cared about and cared for and it makes me feel recognized for who I am, instead of who you wish I were.

I am convinced that the main reason why I have been able to improve as much as I have so far is that I found my family who were willing to be my parents for real. I live with many limitations. Other people in their mid-twenties who are proper adults would probably cringe and run. I’m not allowed to go places by myself. I’m not allowed to use social media, or to make phone calls that they know nothing of. They want to know where I am and what I am doing at all times. I am not allowed to surf the internet without someone keeping an eye on what pages I look at. I’m not allowed to lock a door in the house, except the bathroom door, which they could open with a tool from the outside if they thought it necessary. People who are of age shouldn’t get restricted like this, right?

Well, but in my case: wrong. My perspective on it is different. It doesn’t feel restricting, it feels safe. I’m okay with it. If I seriously disagreed, they wouldn’t be so restricting, but they are and it feels like they care. I don’t want any of those freedoms, I just want to feel that they are there, that they really love me and see the child that I am inside, without looking down on me or devaluing me for it. It’s the best kind of therapy I ever had. I’m gonna grow up when it’s time.

Why my mom is a “good enough” parent, and why my mother wasn’t

I happened across this thesis yesterday and although I only skimmed it, I found something interesting about how parents are supposed to be “good enough” parents. So I asked mom and she said that’s a concept coined by a psychologist named Winnicott and it means that parents don’t need to be perfect, never making mistakes, but that they need to be “good enough” in order for the child do develop in a healthy way.

I thought that was interesting and decided I want to compare the parenting my birth mother did and the parenting my mom now does and see what I get. I’ll write my take on my mother’s behavior in blue and my take on my mom’s behavior in purple.

So trusting the thesis being a good enough parent requires parents to:

  • To teach and guide

my mother – teaching and guiding, I don’t know if that applies to her at all. Does it count if you are taught something by learning to fear the consequences if you don’t do it? The only thing she deliberately taught me was that everyone who didn’t take advantage of someone else when given the chance to get away with it was stupid.

my mom – she takes lots of time to teach me things. Perfectly ordinary things, like how to attend to my personal care, how to use a washing machine or how to cook something, but also things like how come I tick the way I do, how to make sense of my own behavior, that of others and everything. And she does it over and over again, even when it’s the same thing she showed or explained to me ten times already.

  • To instill morals, values, beliefs, ethics

my mother – she instilled the belief that you’re dumb if you don’t cheat the system, take advantage of people or cut them bad deals or lie when you can get away with it. And that it’s okay to take your anger out on others.

my mom – it used to annoy me how ethical she is. If she gets her change and the cashier gave her too much, she always alerts them. She’s all about treating people well and being honest and all that. I used to not get it. Why put myself at a disadvantage when the other won’t even notice? For quite a long time I accused her of only doing it to hone a holier-than-thou attitude, so she can feel morally superior. But I was wrong. Especially lately I got to realize that she does it because it feels good to treat others well, because it makes it easier to feel good about yourself and… hm… I guess because it’s the right thing to do. Sounds weird coming out of my mouth, but go figure, now I actually think so.

  • To discipline

my mother – her idea of discipline were threats and punishment in any shade you think of. I was mortally afraid of irritating her and provoking anger, so I was probably very well behaved, but not out of anything but terror.

my mom – I can’t recall a single event where she punished me, but at the same time she attaches great importance to discipline. If we make agreements, she expects I observe them. And if I don’t, she will follow up on it, will try to figure out how come I didn’t and what I need in order to have an easier time observing the rules the next time around. It’s very important to her. It’s only the minor rules that she lets slip sometimes, stuff like not having candy before dinner.

  • To set limits

my mother – she was setting limits alright. Lots of random limits. Whatever she said was a new rule or a limit. It was kind of confusing because whatever angered her was overstepping a limit, and what she demanded changed depending on her mood, so I was always on guard about it. Stuff that was okay to do yesterday, that she even asked of me, I would often get punished for doing the day after.

my mom – she is also setting limits alright. But they don’t change and most of them make sense, because she takes time to explain them to me, so we’re usually in some sort of agreement over the rules. But yeah, I live with lots of rules and limits. I don’t have many of the liberties other people my age have, but then, I don’t have the emotional or social skills most other people my age have either. So it’s kind of okay, because the rules and limits keep me safe. I guess that’s what it’s all about.  

  • To follow through

my mother – she was actually fairly predictable in the negative regard. If she said I was gonna pay for something, I was gonna pay. In the positive regard, not so much. If she had a good moment, she would sometimes promise me something, like that she was going to get me something from the store, but she almost always forgot about ever having said something like this, or laughed at my disappointment, saying she’d only been kidding me and how stupid was I to have believed I’d be getting something. Most embarrassing memories.

my mom – I have yet to see her not follow through with something. She doesn’t make promises she can’t keep and she doesn’t ever forget any single thing she said. She must have an elephant’s memory or something. It’s me who forgets stuff, but never her. So yeah, whatever she says, she will follow through with it, and if she does change her mind about something, she always explains to me why and makes sure I’m gonna be okay with it. Crazy, but that’s her.

  • To listen

my mother – she didn’t think I had to say anything worth listening to. “You shut up” was her standard response, even when later it was “why didn’t you fucking tell me?!” when I would have actually had something important to say. So no, she didn’t listen very well.

my mom – yeah, she listens. Even to stuff I don’t say or don’t want her to hear. She even keeps on listening when I run off at the mouth and swamp her in verbal diarrhea. She alerts me to my nonsensical nonstop talking and tries to get me back on a more normal track, but even so she listens, if sometimes with a pained smile.

  • To protect and to keep children safe

my mother – she didn’t protect me any. Not from my step-fathers abuse, not from anything. She was threatening and dangerous herself.

my mom – yes, she protects me. She enforces rules that protect me. She knows many of my triggers and takes them into consideration when we plan something. She even doesn’t allow other people to mess with me. She also makes sure I feel safe around the house. That she is a safe person, my safe person, is probably the most important thing about her. I feel safe when she’s there.

  • To help the children internalize skills such as trust

my mother – not at all, the only thing I learned from her was to trust nobody and nothing

my mom – we’re working on trust every single day. We discuss it, she makes a point of being trustworthy and she encourages me to trust others and helps me figure out what makes people or situations trustworthy and what doesn’t. So while I’m still nowhere near having internalized it yet, I hope I’m getting there.

  • To help children feel safe by instilling self-confidence and use of adults

my mother – the only thing she instilled was self-hate, low self-esteem and a belief that adults are dangerous and other people are out to get you anyway

my mom – she tries her best to improve my self-confidence by showing me how to be successful at doing things and by encouraging me to try out things and calling to my attention the things I am good at. And with the safety, I already wrote about that. I use her to feel safe a lot.

  • To provide unconditional love

my mother – she didn’t know what love was, much less unconditional love, unless maybe for my stepfather. She loved him like he was the best person ever, whatever weird reason for. But other than that resentment and hate was her thing, not love.

my mom – I almost don’t dare write it out, so as not to jinx it, but I think she does love me unconditionally. Of course she disapproves of it when I behave in a bad way, but she still loves me. I don’t always feel it – no, actually, I often don’t feel it, because I can’t believe it – but she says she does, and acts like she does and I’d like to think that she does. I feel a little bit safe enough to believe it, too. Sometimes.

  • To provide consistency, predictability, reliability

my mother – no consistency, predictability and reliability at all, except for negative stuff. That always came.

my mom – very consistent, predictable and reliable, even when I try my best to force her into giving it up at times

  • To be aware of and open to what the child needs

my mother – she was only aware of herself and what she needed

my mom – she’s often aware of what I need before I even know that I need anything. She talks about my needs and taking them seriously and giving me what I need all the time, too. Way more than I wish she did, sometimes, but that’s the side of me talking that wishes I didn’t have any needs at all. So it’s good she does it.

  • To provide the basic needs

my mother – she used food, clothing, warmth and shelter as things to manipulate and punish me with. Letting me stand outside in the cold, not giving me food etc. were her ideas of “fun” sometimes.

my mom – she provides for all basic needs. There’s always food, she makes sure I eat enough, she makes sure I wear appropriate clothes that keep me warm and all that.

  • To pass on traditions, culture, prayer

my mother – I don’t know if she even had anything she could have passed on

my mom – yeah, she passes on those things a lot. Traditions around holidays or birthdays are what comes to my mind the most. I have big issues with holidays and birthdays, but somehow as her and my family’s traditions become familiar and “traditional” (as in having a history with them I can look back on) it gets a little easier.

  • To teach about issues such as sexuality, oppression, etc.

my mother – she didn’t speak about those things. Not that I can recall.

my mom – we talk about those things when I can do so in a healthy, safe way. She made sure I know the facts about sexuality, for example, which I must admit I was not very familiar with, other than how having sex works.

  • To develop a secure attachment

my mother – she was not someone anyone could have a secure attachment to. She didn’t want me to attach to her either. She wanted me as far away from her as possible

my mom – she is someone to securely attach to, but I struggle a lot with those relationship issues. So working on those is probably what we do a lot of the time that we spend together, and I can see that she spends a lot of energy on making sure that we’re emotionally in touch and that I feel safe in our relationship. Relationship trouble always takes priority over other things.

  • To model healthy problem solving and feeling management techniques

my mother – she modeled how to drown problems in alcohol, but hey, too bad, they know how to swim, which of course I only realized after I had started drinking, too. Drinking, manipulation of others and violence were about the only problem solving and feeling management techniques I learned from her.

my mom – yes, she models healthy emotional skills and all that. And when she makes mistakes, she says so and apologizes and I think that she’s able to model all those healthy skills is what makes her a safe person to be around. I know I can be unstable and put an emotional burden on her and act out and all that, because she knows how to handle it. She doesn’t lose her cool and doesn’t fall apart over it, making it safe for me to put my mess in her face, plus I can see how she handles it, which I learn from.

Whew, I think that was the longest post I wrote so far. I don’t know if it’s even meaningful to anyone but me, but in case it may help someone else to consider those categories, I’ll post it. 🙂 It helps me to remind myself of those things. It helps me to realize why it’s okay and a healthy thing to love my mom and to still need her so much. And it helps me to realize that maybe it’s not all my own fault that I am so messed up, but that maybe my mom was just not good enough and caused a lot of the crap, too. And it helps to realize that the things that my mom now does, and that I sometimes feel are restrictive and all that, that she does those for a good reason and that it can help me get better, because that’s just the kind of things a good enough parent does.

Self-soothing skills and Borderline Personality Disorder

Still thinking about the social maturity and emotional maturity issues. Still talking about it with my mom, too, because she helps me keep my thoughts together and knows stuff. One thing she has been saying for a long time is that one key ability is for me to learn to self-soothe.

What is self-soothing?

I understand it to be the ability to calm myself down, emotionally, when I get upset. Not by going emotionally numb or by dissociating and not by using some unhealthy coping strategy like self-harm or drugs or distraction. Proper soothing myself, calming down, so that I don’t go off like a contact mine if anyone, myself included, makes only one more wrong move.

Mom says it’s an ability people usually learn when they are still young. Like, as babies, when they are upset and cry, someone comes, attends to them, gives them what they need and they calm down. Their brains produce “upset and stress chemicals” (forgot their names), but those don’t hang around for long, because soon some caregiver will do things that cause the baby’s brain to release soothing chemicals that neutralize the stress ones. The baby is fine again.

Then, by watching how the caregiver does that, and by experiencing that it does work over and over and over and over again, the baby, as it gets older and becomes a child, learns how to do it herself. And also learns to withstand a certain stress, because it knows from experience it will go away soon enough.

Kids like me, whose parents can’t be bothered, and even added a shitload of stress instead of making it go away, aren’t as lucky. If my brain gets stressed, it’s stressed for good. And it doesn’t take much to get really stressed either. Sure, I can turn to artificial soothers, like alcohol or cutting, or I can dissociate and just disconnect from my stressed brain if shit gets bad, but I have a hard time finding ways to release those soothing chemicals that make me okay again.

My mom can do it. She can usually soothe me. I watch how she does it – by being there, by comforting me physically with hugs, by taking me seriously even when I’m being unreasonable and by talking with me until I feel calmer again, but also by taking no crap. In a good way. But even when I know what she does, and that it works, I have trouble doing it by myself. Although I’ve gotten a bit better. I used to immediately act upon my feelings, and I don’t do that so much anymore. Like with the cereal mess this morning, all I wanted to do was destroy something, like throw my mp3 player on the floor and step on it (yes, pretty darn clever, I know), but I didn’t. So I guess I have gotten better at tolerating a stressed brain. I have also learned some small things I can do to calm down a bit.

Healthy stuff that I’ve learned, which helps soothe me:

  • crying – I used to never cry much, but it helps and now I cry a lot, over anything, and it probably helps doubly, because it also alerts others that something is wrong with me
  • talking – well, or ranting, more like. I used to bottle everything up, so that’s a big improvement
  • music – I learned to play the guitar and I sing and I find it helps to express my feelings with music, like by playing and singing angry stuff when I’m angry or sad stuff when I’m sad, etc.
  • seeking comfort from someone healthy – as opposed to going for a mindless fuck, lol
  • awareness and thinking – go figure! since I know more about the mechanisms of these things, I have an easier time pausing to actually think before I act on impulse. At least sometimes.

Well, and there’s one last thing, which I am really embarrassed to admit to. In my family everyone knows it and it’s no big deal, but people in general don’t really understand. Ah well, but as I recently learned how vulnerability is supposedly doing so much good, what the heck, I’ll say it: I use a pacifier. Like the same kind babies do. Only mine are way cooler, because I picked cool-looking ones and am not stuck with whatever is popped in my mouth, like a baby would be! Anyway, I don’t know why, but they work. They’re comforting. They feel kind of innocent and pure and like a good part of childhood that I never had. And for some reason they feel like I’m contained and don’t fall apart so much when I have a pacifier in my mouth. I don’t know if that is because they give me something to focus on, or for another reason, but it helps. Guess they’re called pacifiers for a reason.

Otherwise I’m normal, lol! As normal as I get, anyway. And I figure it’s healthier than smoking. 😉 (Gee, and now please, vulnerability thing, work out.)

Anyway, the point is, I really hope whatever I do helps my brain to get used to some of the good, soothing, positive chemicals hanging around. Not of the artificial happy pill kind, my body’s very own chemicals. For stability. I hope I get better at it, too. The little good chemical bastards are probably not used to being called into action so much, but I sure hope they get more used to it soon!

And I hope everyone who’s struggling finds good ways to soothe themselves. And can find someone healthy who can help with it. I believe it makes a real difference.

Social maturity and borderline personality disorder

When I was surfing the web the other day, I came across a paper about social maturity and I found the title intriguing, as social maturity does definitely not describe me at all, yet is something I wish I had. I started to read the article, but was quickly put off it because it’s a lot of text and virtually no pictures and lots of big words and had me feeling stupid and frustrated in no time.

But one of the advantages of having a mom who’s a shrink is that I can ask her to read it and then explain to me what it’s all about in terms I can understand.

So here’s – in a nutshell – what the article says. Which is basically that this guy Kegan assumed that people’s social maturity (= the degree of understanding of the social world) develops after a similar pattern as cognitive maturity (= the degree of ability to make sense of stuff and understand logic up to abstract concepts). He assumed that it develops in stages from basically “no social understanding” up to “being able to understand even very complex social problems”.

He suggested these stages be called:

  • Incorporative
  • Impulsive
  • Imperial
  • Interpersonal
  • Institutional
  • InterIndividual

Here’s a short summary of what each is supposed to mean:

Incorporative stage: the baby not having any sense of self yet, only sensory experiences and reflexes (like crying in response to an unpleasant sensation)

Impulsive stage: the baby realizing it actually IS not its senses and reflexes, but HAS them, that there is an “I” separate from the senses and reflexes that has needs (= impulses) and can take action to make stuff happen (e.g. cry intentionally to satisfy an impulse like hunger.) Others aren’t understood to be separate beings yet, but just something that be called into action to satisfy an impulse.

Imperial stage: the child becomes aware that it IS not her needs but HAS them, and that it can consciously manipulate things or people to get them satisfied. It expresses those needs and demands them met, without considering anyone else, because while it is now aware that others are separate from them, there is no awareness that they have feelings and needs and their own perceptions, too (kind of like they were robots, I figure, that can be manipulated into satisfying needs).

Interpersonal stage: the child becomes aware that other people actually are NOT robots, but have needs and feelings and own perceptions, too, that need to be taken into account. At the same time there is no inner guideline yet that tells the child whose needs should be more important – it can be the needs of others (always putting others first) – it can be its own needs (always putting itself first) – or it might go back and forth between the two. Children can now experience things like guilt or shame and a conscience, too, because they have become aware that they are not the only ones with valid needs or feelings.

Institutional stage: the child realized that there are institutionalized (= agreed upon by society and established) values and ideas and principles that can guide her behavior, like “fairness” or “honesty” or legal boundaries. The child can grasp why those are important and can (or should) not just be ignored when they are inconvenient.

InterIndividual stage: the adult realized that his or her own institutionalized values, ideas and principles aren’t the only valid ones, and that even values that other groups of people have agreed upon can be valid and justified and can be considered and respected for social interactions, even when they are not shared, or conflict with the own set of values etc. Even many adults don’t reach this stage, though, and continue to simply condemn or disregard institutionalized ideas that don’t agree with their own.

Okay, so far so good. I got it that far.

The next point the essay talked about was how people with personality disorders are supposedly stuck in earlier stages of social maturity. Like a Narcissist who can genuinely not comprehend on a social and emotional level that other people have needs and feelings that need to be considered, too, and aren’t less important than their own. While they might KNOW that, it has no social or emotional meaning to them and they are stuck at the Imperial stage, demanding everyone satisfy their needs. Which is not generally well liked in people over three or four years old.

So what about BPD? I suppose that personally I am stuck at the Interpersonal stage, with occasional lapses to the Imperial stage. I am usually aware that other people have needs and feelings, I am utterly capable of feeling shame and guilt, but I am not yet able to reliably let institutionalized principles guide my decisions about whose needs and feelings are more important in which situation. While I KNOW about those principles and values etc, I can’t feel them in those situations and can not apply them yet.

Which makes me wonder, what do people need to advance? How do you get more socially mature? I’m sure it must have something to do with experiences, because if it was only about knowing about those things, I would be there.

I’m wondering if maybe one stage needs to be completed with a satisfactory result in order to properly “graduate” to the next? Like when those earlier stages have been somehow messed with, maybe you just don’t have collected enough of what’s needed to proceed? So maybe I need to figure out what people are supposed to learn and experience at the interpersonal stage in order to advance . . .

Gee, I don’t know, it’s complicated. My mom has no good answers ready either. The essay said Kegan wrote a book that covers those questions called “In Over Our Heads”. Maybe I need to get my mom to read it . . .  😀

C PTSD - A Way Out

A place to check in daily

The Serenity Game

Marriage- The Final Frontier- Humor is the Key

Creative Liar

Because the truth makes me cry.

ladyswan1221

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Simple Pleasures

Visual Poetry, Photography and Quotes

scienerf

So many MonSters so little time

silence of silence

i took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: i am, i am, i am.

We're All Mad Inhere

Life as it is: Surviving Insanity

Raison d'etre

There must be more than one...

Cupcakes and Anguish

Ramblings of a crazy creative ninja

firefliesandfairies

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Love—Life—OM

Support for survivors of domestic violence, rape and fraud

Beauty from ashes daughter

Words of hope from an abuse survivor

Tackling BPD

My story of recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, depression and anxiety through self-help. How I learned to like myself and live a happier life.

The Bottom of a Bottle

Trust me, I've been there, I've looked, I've searched and I know now, that there are no answers to be found in the bottom of a bottle or on the edge of a blade! Fighting Hard, Recovering, Rebuilding, REBORN. Moving on from addiction to a new life.